Oakland A’s need for a starter comes down to A.J. Puk
By David Hill
The Oakland A’s are continuing to hope that A.J. Puk can seize that opening in their rotation for himself.
One of the biggest questions surrounding the Oakland A’s going into 2021 is the identity of their fifth starter. Chances are this will be an internal candidate, especially given the plethora of prospects that the A’s possess. However, in reality, that spot is A.J. Puk‘s to lose.
That statement was reiterated on Thursday, as general manager David Forst provided an update on Puk’s return from shoulder surgery. Forst also stated that he considers Puk as a part of the A’s rotation.
One can understand why the A’s want to keep him in that role. A consensus top 100 prospect from 2017 through 2020, Puk has the potential to be a top of the rotation arm. His pure stuff and strikeout potential make him one of the better options that the A’s could consider for that opening.
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But there are numerous concerns, specifically as it comes to his health. Puk has pitched a total of 36.2 innings over the past three seasons, his career being sidetracked by Tommy John surgery and a procedure to fix a shoulder issue that had bothered him throughout 2020, beginning in spring training and lasting through the year.
If he can stay healthy, Puk is an imposing force on the mound. His high octane fastball and excellent slider can be a weapon, especially coming from the left side. It is easy to look at Puk and imagine that he can develop into a Chris Sale caliber of pitcher. But he has to stay on the mound first.
That will be especially important in 2021. Puk will need to actually remain on the mound in order for his prospect status to matter. Talent and potential will only go so far until teams start looking for results. Puk is now at that point.
The Oakland A’s still expect A.J. Puk to be a part of their rotation in 2021. However, time is starting to run out for him to make an impact.